James Bond: Uptight Rebel

We were discussing how Bond treats women the other day, and my son said that the “modern” Bonds (Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig) treat women with respect while the older Bonds do not, and I said that the movies were, of course, products of their time.

But then I thought about it.

James Bond is a government guy. As such, he’s always a little retro, a little more conservative, more buttoned-down, than the average citizen. His values are current, yes, but always a somewhat conservative version of current, rather like I imagine a real life MI6 or CIA agent is.

But a button-down hero can be a little boring, and Bond is not boring. He’s not Joe Friday, not a servant of the law. Rather, he is an independent, even rebellious character. It is not merely that he violates the conservative norms of government employees by gambling and drinking and sleeping around. It’s that he questions each mission. Bond isn’t satisfied merely to follow orders, in the course of each and every film, he has to find out for himself that the villain is evil, and have his own reasons for pursuing him.

Every film has a sacrificial lamb in part because Bond must have a personal, revenge-driven mission. It might be a political mission that Bond takes personally, but he is always in the process of deciding for himself, and is always willing to go against “the company.” Thus he is not merely a buttoned-down agent, but an independent actor on his own life’s stage.

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2 Responses to “James Bond: Uptight Rebel”

  1. Zippertuck Says:

    Bond has never been a “company man”. He is always at odds with M and the government. In fact in the short story The Living Daylights, Bond actually is hoping M will fire him for his last-second decision not to kill the sniper, but hit the butt of her rifle instead. He actaully gives his resignation in OHMSS and seriously wants to retire in Casino Royale. He of course does have loyalty to Queen and country, but he always watches out for himself. Is Bond conservative? I would hardly call him conservative, but on the other hand I certainly would not call him liberal either. A rebel maybe. How about well informed and well educated. The character James Bond was of course modeled after Ian Fleming and you could never call Ian Fleming conservative. A little old fashoined and chauvinistic maybe, but always in search of a good time, a good drink and a beaitiful woman just like James Bond.

  2. Deborah Lipp Says:

    That’s exactly what I was getting at Zippertuck, that dynamic tension between working for the company but not being a company man; between being old-fashioned and yet being a rebel.

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